1,679 youths have been stabbed in London during the 12 months to May- an increase of 23 per cent on the previous year.
The number of victims is the equivalent of all the pupils in three secondary schools.
In the light of these figures Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has called on Londoners to join him in stepping up the fight against knife crime:
Knife crime remains a blight on London and we have to do something about it.
The Commissioner is urging members of the public to tell police who is carrying a knife, not only to reduce the number of knife crime victims but to save those who may use knives from ruining their own lives by committing serious acts of violence.
His plea comes on the day the third episode of a BBC documentary series on the Met Police shows officers trying to save the life of a 17 year old youth who dies from a stabbing in south London.
If a family member, friend or gang member carries a knife they are just as likely to use it against you as someone else, so I’d like people to tell us when they know someone is carrying a knife.
We get 4.5 million calls a year, so the public do trust us to do something, but we don’t get enough specific information about who’s carrying knives.
The Commissioner says there is a case for greater use of the tactic of stop and search in areas with high levels of knife crime and gang violence.
Over the last three years we have listened to feedback from the public about too much ineffective stop and search. We have worked to make it more targeted and have seen a broad reduction in violence, shootings and stabbings.
But over the last three months there has been a rise in stabbings and that has caused us to review our position on stop and search. We were doing too much; repeatedly stopping people who have done nothing wrong can’t be right. But if we are getting to the stage where people think they can carry knives with impunity, that can’t be good for anyone.
Sir Bernard added:
Stop and search is a reasonable tactic when used in the right way. We don’t want to see a return to a million stop and searches, but there is an argument for more use of stop and search focused on high knife crime areas and targeting gangs. Our 1,200 Trident Gang Crime officers have a big part to play in this.
If we know people are violent and carry knives, then we have the power to prevent them hurting people and we should stop and search them every day.
Sir Bernard also argues for simplification of the law of possession in this area so that it could act as a greater deterrent:
Being caught carrying a knife is less serious for the suspect than using it. There is draft legislation on the statute book which would lead to people being sent to prison for six months if they’re twice caught carrying a knife. The same sort of legislation has worked to tackle gun crime. We need simplicity for these offences that gang members understand.